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you might go to a pawn shop and find a sony, kenwood or denon for 50 to 75 bucks. [i found a 350 dollar kenwood for 10 bucks at a flea market that has been playing fine for 3 years.] if it looks clean and not wore out it might give you some good service for a long time. see if they would give you a 30 day exchange and then clean the rollers, demagnetize and start enjoying. the other option is find a nakamichi or other high end deck here. good luck but be prepared for some old tapes to have dropouts and other deterioration.
I would say to a avoid Nakamichi - many used a tape head configuration peculiar to Nak, so that any tapes recorded on a non-Nak deck will sound odd. Naks also tend to be pretty persnickety. I've owned a bunch of used decks over the years - I'd say a Sony, Yamaha, Denon or Technics are your best bet. I agree with the suggestion to go to a pawnshop or second hand store - cheap decks tend to be thick on the ground. As other have suggested, be sure to clean the heads and rollers thoroughly - I believe Radio Shack still sells a decent cleaning kit.
Sorry to disagree, but don't avoid Nakamichi. I have three
and thousands of cassettes to go with them. Yes, I occasionally get one that won't play well, but I usually
blame the age or condition of the cassette, not the Nak.
Spend a few bucks and get something you will be glad you own years from now. Don't be suprised if you like the sound so much that you begin adding to your cassette collection. You may never want to let it go.
What E. said, or even a Sony Walkman which are always available on the 'Bay. Sounds like this is a 'just for fun' project, so I wouldn't spend a lot of money.
RE Naks: Tonykay is correct. Sometimes tapes recorded on a Nak can sound weird on other decks -- not the other way around ;--) It's because Nak heads have narrower gaps than those in any other cassette machines.
I have 2 Nakamichi decks from the mid 1980's, (a BX125, and a BX300). Still working perfectly (not that I listen to many of my cassette tapes made way back when...), but I've had no problems with them whatsoever in over 25 years!! No lie!! I think they still sound great. I'd part with the BX125 for pennies on the dollar if you wanted it. I don't have a need for 2 cassette decks. Never use them anymore, just keeping stuff around 'cause I'm OCD and I never get rid of anything (gearwise.) Check this out- I even have my 1st set of Advent 2 ways from 1973, and a friggin' mint condition ADC Sound Shaper 2 graphic equalizer from the same era. I hoard stuff and then build secondary systems in every other room of my damn house, in my garage, bedrooms, the family room, back patio, etc. I even have old classic stuff from the 70's, (still working too), out in my tool shed. It's outta control man. I drive my lovely wife nuts! But I'm trying to change! Working thru my anal retentive audiophile issues thru intensive counciling, shock therapy sessions, and very strong medications! Reinventing myself, so to speak. I'm actually selling off all kinds of stuff, and giving things away for free, and reducing my "carbon footprint" at the same time, Ha Ha Ha...or should I say excess clutter? Hey partner I'm serious as a heart attack. You can have the "lesser" Nak.(the BX 125) for $50.00 bucks plus shipping. I know! I know! Audiogon says we aren't supposed to use these discussion forums for selling stuff, so hows about this- I just give it to you? You pay for the shipping and I'll "pay it forward". You get a 25 year old (almost mint condition) Nak. cassette deck for FREE, your wife doesn't get pissed because you "once again" want more electronic toys and bullshit, (because it never ends with us audiophiles and gear heads), and I get to "weed out" another piece of ancient dust collecting gear! It's a win-win situation man! I even have the original box and instruction manual. This way, when your "passing fad" fades away in a year or less, you're not out any money, you can turn around and sell it off here on Audiogon, or have yourself that "much needed" yardsale, then use the money to finance your drug habit and/or gambling addiction! Just kidding about the drugs, Bro. Seriously though, I'll give it to you for free. You pick up the cost of shipping and I'll let you have it. You go ahead and enjoy it. God knows I don't "need" it anymore. Let me know if you wanna do that ok? I'm just sharin' the love. Peace and Happy listening you fellow Audiophile obsessive :-)
Aw now come on...all you "haters" who have seen fit to bash the once "viable" cassette tape, why you gotta be like that huh?? Most of us at one point in time had 8 track tapes too...and shitty little low-fi record players as well. We all had to start somewhere. In it's day, (many moons ago), the cassette format was quite good IMHO, especially when recorded on high quality decks, then played back on them. Who's ever owned a Nak. Dragon? Good stuff right? Before the days of CD came along, our trusty cassette decks provided many hours of mobile entertainment, right? In the late 70's into the early/mid 80's I had more then a few ass kickin' car audio systems, all fronted by (none other than) a Nakamichi car cassette deck! It was awesome. It rocked. And it was about the best we could do at the time! But now look at us- we are all into the modern age of High-Rez down loads, SACDs, and $15,000 Koetsu phono cartridges! None of which render the lowly cassette tape "unlistenable." Can I hear an AMEN for that? Can I get a Hallelujia? I'm willing to bet that countless audiophiles still have a gazillion cassettes taking up space somewhere in their home, garage, hall closet? I sure as hell do, (about 2000 of them at last estimate.) So,for those of you "haters" of the "dead" cassette format- have a little heart and compassion for the rest of us old schoolers will ya?
In any case, I have too many cassette decks anyhow, so I am going to give Harnellt one of my fully functional, (and still quite nice sounding), Nakamichi cassette decks free of charge...SO There! Lets spread the love man! We're all in this together. Peace.
Some say Tandberg 3014, and 3014a, is the best there is. I never tried one. They are also very rare and expensive to buy and maintain.
Yes, my Spacedeck still sounds better than the copy made on my well aligned Nak 682ZX but not by too much. This Nak thing is really great especially with reference grade metal tape. I'll get to RTR later too. So for very critical listening - vinyl; not so critical - compilations on tape.
What's so entertaining about this thread is how "polarized" folks can become. I'll bet that back in "the day" before the growing popularity of the cassette tape, (be it pre-recorded, or the ones we did ourselves), most of us music lovers and hobbyists probably owned 8 track tape players, and a buttload of 8 track tapes? What else was there for our cars? Either that, or we were stuck listening to only AM/FM radio stations. Which wasn't so bad actually, IMHO. Then along comes the cassette tape and who could resist it? Fast forward, (no pun intended) to TODAY, with so much kick-ass, high-rez material readily available to all who are willing to go "there"...and how quickly so many folks are to bash the validity of a (once great) format. But I do agree with you halfheartedly. By todays standards, the cassette format is nothing in comparison. But it doesn't totally suck either. Which is why I think so many of us out here in "audiophileland" still hang on to our trusty old cassette decks in the first place! I can honestly say that I have not "seriously" listened to cassettes in over 20 years! Yet I still own 2000 plus. Crazy? Sure. Just a little bit. Stone age? Yeah kind of. (I admit to still dragging my wife around by her hair, carrying a club, and painting pictures of stuff on the cave walls with a burnt stick.) So I guess I AM a caveman. One who still embraces the past, even though it's not anywhere close to 24 bit/192 hz oversampling. I also own 7 friggin' cassette decks still. Geez! maybe I should have been the one doing the GEIKO insurance commercials? For whatever it's worth, I feel proud to have my connection to the past, even if I don't use my antiquated decks any longer. They still look cool, and work, and are often the source of conversation! Long live us old school, low-fi, caveman gear hoarders!! I salute you.
kudos to martinmobile for carrying the cassette torch. like him, i've hoarded a gazillion cassettes over the years, including alot of cool stuff which'll never get released on cd, and thus still cling stubbornly to the medium. tapes aren't intrinsically bad sounding--i sometimes prefer a well-recorded tape played on a good deck to disc. the main drawback, as i see it, is that a high percentage of prerecorded tapes are absymally recorded and/or manufactured, and no equipment in the world is gonna make 'em sound listenable.
thanks for the entertaining thread.
I've found yamaha decks from the late 80's and early 90's to be top performers and were a great value even back when new. You should be able to pick up one for a pittance these days.
You will pay a premium for other big names from that era, like Nakamichi and Tandberg, but they may be worth it.
Aiwa used to make some of the best looking and sounding decks as well in the late seventies, but there may not be many of these around anymore in good working order. Mine gave up the goat a good while back.
First I discovered the belt I was looking for was available on E-Bay for $50. Next I went to the hardware store and purchased a pack of "O" rings. After finding a match, I installed it. Now my Sony KA3ES, 3 head closed loop dual capstan is up and running.
It's strange, how I remember many nights cruising the town in my "chariot" listening to celestial sounds emanating from the deck. There must have been something magical about the deck in my chariot, this deck does not have the same "mojo'. Or maybe it was one of those beautiful fragrant creatures that was usually occupying the seat next to me that provided the magic. Whatever, while this deck sounds good; it's lost that special "mojo".
Let me tell you this. Recordings made on my Nak using Maxell Vertex tape, which is the best there is, directly from Acoustech phono using Purist cable fed by signal from the Spacedeck sound better in every respect except noise level than any CD. And RTR should be much better still. Decks are not obsolete at all; perhaps the people who think that way are. But yes, they require care and fine tuning and very good tapes. If majority of the population were not imbiciles we would be listening to only RTRs and some cassette decks now. No vinyl needed let alone cds.
I think the three main sonic limitations of the cassette source format are often noise levels together with high frequency response and sometimes dynamic range.
That aside, I still have many cassette tapes still I recorded on various decks in my various system variations over the years. Despite the age of some (30 years old in some cases) when I play these on my current system, by far the best I have owned I would say, they still sound pretty good. I even have some tracks on my music server I digitized from these cassette sources. When these come up in random play mode among others, they sound quite listenable, but I do not think I have any trouble identifying that these were sourced from cassette tape, mainly due to noise levels and frequency response. For other tracks that are more pure digital source or even vinyl, it is hard, although surface noise from vinyl when present is a dead giveaway.
besides nakamichi and revox decks since they are the high end among decks, you might want to try to get a hold of a TASCAM 122 MK 2 or similar deck. It's a pro deck. It's a great sounding and recording deck. You can adjust pitch like you would a turntable. It was originally a 1250 deck, but you might get lucky and get it under $500. Another deck I owned that was well made is the AKAI GX 70. Pioneer made some real good decks as well. A deck that uses cobalt/amorphous heads with at least 3 heads are the best made. How good your deck sounds is based on the types of heads are used. That is why nakamichi and revox are well noted!
You might find that after many years the sound has deteriorated. The metal particals on tape will over time go back to there normal alignment. I have noticed this on all the tapes I ever made with my NAK 680ZX. After so many plays and just sitting around (even after 1 year)you can tell a big difference when you play the LP again and listen to an older tape you made with the same LP. They might be fun to listen to. Recording studios usally go thru a special process to keep the master tapes from deteriorating.
I just picked up an old Marantz cassette deck at an estate sale. Had to buy some new belts to install in it, and for about 20 bucks I'm set. I only had 1 cassette tape so I went to Goodwill and picked up a surprising variety of great music to listen to for 59 cents each. Some sound excellent, others very compressed. It was fun going through the process, and it will now go to the basement system for an occasional listen. It may be stone age fodder, but it put a smile on my face.
Great comment, Abucktwoeighty! I have been advocating that
same experience on most "cassete-oriented" threads, but I
always get blasted for it. Many believe that vinyl is the
only analog medium worth exploring. They're wrong! As you pointed out, thrift stores sell cassettes cheap.Rasputin's and Amoeba (SF Bay area) also routinely blow them out at 4/1$. Many are brand new, and sound like it. I bought a
still-sealed cassette of Sinatra's "Nice and Easy" album and it made me realize how right I have been about the
sound of a well-recorded cassette on a Nakamichi deck.
Revox is very good and sounds somewhat different than Nakamichi. There are still places that service and repair them. Usually you can get one in good condition on ebay for about $500. I see no reason to use them instead of Nak.
Now, there are couple of Studer cassette decks that use better heads and all balanced in/out. They are rare and might be worth the attention. Expensive to buy and maintain.
I have a two Nakamichi BX-125 decks, two BX-300's, CR-5A & CR-7A and taped mega amounts in the 80's & 90's. Mostly, if not all, Grateful Dead bootlegs.
The BX-125's were my slave decks for sharing the music. Man, I would make about 20-30 copies a week for people and never ONCE had problems with any of them.
Sadly and happily, I am a FLAC guy now and my 2000+ Dead tapes sit quietly in a closet.
Loved my NAK's